Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dry and Hopeful in Red Hook

Cup of the Day #113
"High Clouds" by Gwyneth Leech
India and white ink on upcycled paper cup

It was much easier than I expected - an A train from Manhattan to Jay Street in Brooklyn, followed by a wending B61 bus that landed us directly outside the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook on a grey afternoon. It was three weeks after Hurricane Sandy and I had been surprised and pleased to hear that Joan Grubin and Tamiko Kawata where giving gallery talks that day. Was it possible that the Red Hook neighborhood, site of such dramatic flooding and concentrated vounteer relief efforts, was already getting back to normal? "NEWS UPDATE", exclaimed the gallery website, "Kentler survived Sandy!"

Joan Grubin"Paper Optics"
 back gallery space

"Beyond Line, Beyond Surfaces"
front gallery space

Red Hook is a low-lying neighborhood, surrounded by water on three sides. As our bus made its way down a now dry Van Brunt Street (the main thoroughfare where water had rushed in like a "mini Tsunami" on October 29th) there were still some signs of the aftermath: piles of black refuse bags, a few sandbagged doorways, people in face masks working in basements and gutting ground floor spaces. But there was plenty of everyday activity along the sidewalks, in the playground, and in the many open shops, restaurants and coffee bars. 

Flooded Red Hook, October 29, 2012
Photos from Web

A good crowd gathered in the gallery. Both artists had stories to tell of disrupted preparations and delays - trying to get artwork to the gallery in wind and rain, the fear of damage as water rose in the basement, but never flooded the gallery. Tamiko made it to the gallery after the storm to install, and became stranded on a day when no busses or trains were running and taxis had no gas. She hitch-hiked home to Manhattan! 

The two artists worked flat-out in the gallery making site specific installations in their separate spaces as cleanup crews labored in the neighborhood. Joan said she felt like rushing out and grabbing a shovel to help clear basements. Yet, she stayed at her task, and the result is a glorious and life-affirming array of experiments in perception and optical effects. The exhibition opened on schedule, and the artwork lifted the spirits of community members who gathered in the gallery with FEMA in the days after the storm.

FEMA Meeting at the Kentler.

"Progression" by Joan Grubin
 acrylic on paper flaps,  64" x 53" x 2", 2011 

Asked if the hurricane had effected her work, Joan replied that it was a matter of perception and context. Preplanned pieces looked ever more right in the aftermath. "Progression", a large installation that dominates the end wall of the gallery, began to look like the floodwaters themselves, racing up the streets. 

The exhibition runs through December 16th. "Tell people to come," said Florence Neal, the director of the Kentler. "The gallery is open. Local businesses are open. After what we we went through we don't want the double impact of first the hurricane, and then of people staying away."

The gallery is located at  353 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York and is open  Thursday - Sunday, 12 - 5pm. It can be reached by bus, car, free IKEA ferrry from Manhattan, and also kayak and canoe! For a map and contact information click here.

As an added incentive, right next door is the delightfully and nautically named Hope and Anchor, a corner cafe and bar. It was abuzz with customers on this dark afternoon and the food was excellent.
While across the street at Dry Dock, the vintners, bottles of fine wine with water-damaged labels were selling for half price. Hurry out. There might be some left.

Photo: NY_Eater

Relief efforts are ongoing in Red Hook, as in other New York and New Jersey neighborhoods following Hurricane Sandy. For ways to help go to and

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chelsea Art Galleries on the Rebound + Emergency Resources for Artists

Cup of the Day #112
"The Deluge 2012", by Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on upcycled paper cup

"We are open!" exclaimed an art dealer just two weeks after hurricane Sandy. "Despite all the sad stories, many galleries in Chelsea are open for business. And if you have been eyeing a piece of art, even if the price is only $100, now is the time to make that purchase!"

Such a turn-around hardly seemed possible on November 1st, three days after the storm. I had walked twenty blocks down to the power-less and waterlogged gallery district. It was shocking to see high water marks four and five feet up the sides of gallery walls a block or more from the Hudson river. Teams of people were already at work on the cleanup, the scene dominated by disaster mediation workers in hazmat suits, by the sound of gas generators and pumps. On every street between 27th and 18th mountains of packaging, ruined crates and trash bags lined the sidewalks and filled dumpsters. Salvaged art was being packed into trucks and sent to restorers. The galleries were dank and darkened shells, unrecognizable from their usual character as brightly lit and rarefied temples of culture.

Four foot highwater line outside Sonnabend Gallery on 22nd Street.

Servpro at work on 26th Street, November 1st.

Outside Jack Shainman Gallery on West 20th Street, where the basement level flooded 

Remedial work advancing in a 22nd Street gallery, November 1st. 

Only a few days later, I received an e-mail saying that numerous galleries were opening exhibitions on Thursday the 8th of November. Power had been restored to most of the city below 34th Street and a come-back in Chelsea was already under way! I went but it was a rather somber evening. The usual crowds of opening-goers were absent. Several major gallery buildings were still without power from damage to services at basement level. Most street level spaces were still closed and restoration work was visibly underway into the night. 

However, upstairs spaces, of which there are many, were abuzz and some street level galleries, by fluke of raised door steps or the absence of basements had escaped unscathed and were open to the public.

Gallery restoration on 25th Street, November 8th

 James Cohan Gallery, West 26th Street, Chelsea, Trenton Doyle Hancock opening November 8th

 Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, West 24th Street
Peter Campus, "Now and Then" opening, November 8th

It was especially heartening to see Printed Matter, purveyor of "15,000 artists books", open again after having so much of their material and archives damaged when the basement flooded as far from the river as 10th Avenue. Overall, the bright lights and hardy art viewers were a comfort and predicator that the Chelsea art scene is resilient and will soon be back up to speed.

Printed Matter on 10th Avenue at 22nd Street open for business on November 8th

Salvage work outside Printed Matter on November 1st.

Much further from view are the many stricken art neighborhoods around the city, especially in low-lying parts of Hoboken, Jersey City, Red Hook, Greenpoint and Gowanus where artists' studios and storage spaces as well as small alternative galleries were flooded. Some artists lost decades of work and were less likely than art galleries to have adequate insurance, if any. Numerous arts organizations and foundations have stepped up to the plate and are offering emergency support and services. Below is a list compiled by the Lower Manhattan Cultural council.

Cleanup outside Bortolami Gallery on West 20th Street, November 1st.

Emergency Resources for Artists
Complied by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Artists, please note: if any of your work or live/work space has been
damaged, take pictures and keep receipts of whatever you spend during this

*Self-employed people are eligible for 'disaster unemployment insurance'* in
areas where a federal declaration of disaster has been declared.
explains more:

*LMCC's Emergency Grants List:*

*NYFA's Emergency Grants List:*

*Joan Mitchell Foundation:* sent out this message after the Hurricane:
"If you are - or know of - a visual artist who has been affected by the
hurricane please contact us. The Foundation has funding allocated
specifically for emergency assistance to painters and sculptors affected by
natural disasters... We know that communication for many is very limited
now, but our staff can be reached by email at:

*Small Business Disaster Relief Loans:*
Federal: Small Business Administration

City: Department of Small Business Services has set up a Sandy recovery

For more information about the loans, call 311 and ask for NYC Business

*Links to salvage / conservation / recovery information:*
Conservation OnLine:
Studio Protector:

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training:
Heritage Preservation:
Arts Ready:
MoMA consortium on conserving works released this
emergency handling of artwork damaged by flooding.

*Christie's*: Christie's is arranging space for Downtown artists to use
their laptops and charge their phones, and may be able to assist galleries
with storage space for their art. Those interested, please call (212)

*New York City Economic Development Corporation*: For any business
temporarily displaced, NYCEDC may have short-term "swing" office or storage
space: information at

*New York City Arts Coalition offers helpful information about FEMA*:
Federal disaster resources will be dependent on your (or your arts
group/business) being registered at FEMA. Go to

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Slow Motion Sandy and a Flood of Relief

Cup of the Day #111
"The calm before the Storm"
Water color on upcycled paper coffee cup 
by Gwyneth Leech

Hurricane Sandy came grinding ashore last week as if in slow motion. New York City was ready early -  the public transportation system, the bridges and tunnels were closed nearly a day in advance. Fleets of taxis were grounded. Everyone went home. Inconvenienced, we New Yorkers complained and fussed and then went to bed on Sunday night waiting for the onslaught but not quite believing the forecasts.

The weather map was terrifying, but in Midtown Manhattan on that hurricane Monday it didn't actually seem like much. Gusts of wind and rain at street level, not dramatic. There was a stange high pitched whine of wind high above, but that wouldn't keep us holed up indoors. In fact, many of us went repeatedly down to the Hudson River to watch the water level rise, and to feel the warm driving rain in our faces. It seemed nothing like the wind and snow lashing the city as I sit writing on this afternoon ten days later.

High water on the West side highway
8:30 pm Monday, October 29th
AP Photo/ Dylan Patrick

  The same section of the West side Highway on Tuesday October 30th at 11 am.
The flooding tide receded quickly. Up here in Midtown, it was as if it never happened - almost.

Around 8pm on Monday, October 29th, the tide reached its peak and the flood waters swept in at last, reaching deep into the five boroughs. Half the city plunged into darkness. Within hours the freak tide had receded. A seemingly underwhelming storm and its unprecedented tidal surge left behind a wrack and ruin of ordinary life: a pulverized coast, lost lives, houses and infrastructure destroyed, trees uprooted, widespread power outages and a city brought to a halt by a flooded and power-less public transportation system.

Broken crane at the 74th floor.
November 1st, 2012

In Midtown Manhattan we were spared the multi-day power outages but found ourselves in limbo: offices downtown where many of us work shut for an indefinite time, schools stayed closed day after day, the lack of public transportation kept us close to home. A crane dangled menacingly high above 57th Street and with that street closed, traffic mayhem spread as far as the eye could see.

 Broadway and 57th Street closed for days due to the crane accident.
Traffic chaos around Columbus circle and on 8th Avenue, November 1st, 2012

Somehow, we got through that long week with remarkable optimism, patience and gratitude.
Hallowe'en was observed just two days after the storm. On this Wednesday, ten days later, much has returned to a semblance of normal - most transportation running, most schools open and children back, most people returning to work. Yesterday we succeeded in voting along with the rest of the country.

Trick-or-treat in the local deli,
Hell's Kitchen, October 31, 2012

There was  a second flood unleashed by Hurricane Sandy: of images and articles, news reports and social media commentary. This second inundation continues to play out, giving us detailed views of the hardest hit communities: the length of the Jersey shore, Staten Island and the Rockaways, Long Beach and other areas which front the coast, lower Manhattan, low-lying sections of Brooklyn and New Jersey along the New York Harbor. Artist communities in Red Hook and Greenpoint as well as the Chelsea gallery district were all ravaged by the waters. The result has been a massive outpouring of public and private relief, fund-raising, donation drives and volunteer efforts of all kinds across the region. Aid will be needed for a long time to come, especially for tens of thousands who cannot return home or have no homes or jobs to return to following fire and flood. Our hearts go out to them, especially as today's snow-laden nor'easter pummels the coast all over again!

Relief efforts are ongoing. Go to for details of ways to take part.
For information about New Jersey go to

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